There have been more than 20 types of catfish hybrids attempted, but very few have successfully reproduced.
“The problem is the difficulty in making them,” said Robert Schmid, A.E. Wood hatcheries manager. “Everyone must be in the right mood.”
The hybrid catfish is a combination of a female channel catfish and a male blue catfish. The two species seldom reproduce in the wild.
According to Schmid, in the private sector, aquaculture centers breed hybrid catfish to be sold in markets. The process includes putting selected females into spawning bags where they ovulate after an injection of luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogue and put into water 72 to 86 degrees. The second injection of LHRHa is administered 12 hours after the first. Thirty-six hours from the first injection, the females are ready to ovulate and release eggs into the bags. Then the eggs are detected, the male blue catfish must be dispatched and their testes removed. The testes are blended carefully with a saline solution then filtered. The filtered sperm is then mixed with the eggs. It takes .5 grams of sperm to fertilize 100 grams of eggs.
The physical differences between a hybrid and a normal blue catfish is the hybrid has 28 rays on it’s anal fin compared to the 30 to 36 rays of a blue catfish, have lower eyes than channel catfish, and may have spots.
They are also easier to catch, according to Schimd. Most catfish sit on the bottom and are curious about food in front of them. The hybrid has been known to bite anything they sense nearby.
The hybrids grow faster, can survive in low-oxygenated waters, and are resistant to catfish diseases like hamburger gills.
Yet the opposite breeding pattern of a female blue and channel male, called a reciprocal catfish, does not carry the superior qualities of the hybrid nor do aquaculture centers have a demand for them.
“The reciprocal catfish are even more difficult to make,” said Schmid
Even though private hatcheries create hybrids, Schmid said it is possible for hybrids to be born in the wild.
“It is not common but if an angler catches one, they should be proud,” he said.